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BizDay Zimbabwe

Africa needs collective strategy to trade with China


Johannesburg – Africans should come out with a strategy to do business with China which includes negotiating as a continent or as regional blocs and adding value to its products, Zimbabwe Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara said on Wednesday.

Speaking at the China-Africa business summit held here, Mutambara said such a strategy will result in a win-win situation for both China and Africa.

He said there was need for what he described as “hard nosed economic thinking”.

“This is negotiating better, box clever because as Africans we have strong bargaining power. Yes Africa needs China but China also needs Africa.”

Mutambara said China should come to Africa on African terms.

He discouraged individual African countries to enter into bilateral trade agreements with China saying, the relationship was always at the advantage of China which has  just over a billion people and a higher GDP.

“We want SADC, COMESA consensus,” he said.

South Africa was in a strong position to play a bigger role as a member of the Brics which include Russia, India and China. South Africa must work with others in
Africa for collective success.

He said South Africa’s position in Brics at the moment was undermined by its low GDP.
Africa should stop being a consumer of China’s goods but enter into joint ventures to set up manufacturing plants which produces goods that can be sold worldwide.

Africa should also know that in order to do business effectively their countries should have certainty and predictability.

He said Africans should stop blaming the Chinese for the deals and arrangements it was entering with China but must take control of its resources.

“China is no longer a fellow poor or developing country. It’s not solidarity of the poor. They are now a serious super power. They are shrewd business players.”

He lauded China for improving Africa’s international status by offering a powerful alternative market compared to the West which only takes resources from Africa and treats Africa with a condescending attitude.

He said Africa should not be dragon slayers who emphasise China’s selfish quest for African natural resources or panda huggers who applaud China’s contribution to Africa’s development but that the relationship between Africa and China should be balanced.

Mutambara said Africa was poised to take over Asia as the economic giant of the world but added that Africa was more than just minerals.

The key driver in Africa’s economy is consumer facing industries such as retail, ICT, banking, services and demographics.

He said with 60 percent of Africa’s youth, Africa could convert its population into economics.

Mutambara said the day-long summit should not be a talk shop but must identify challenges, corrective policy intervention and come up with an implementation matrix which includes a win-win strategy.

He said those who criticised China on democracy were wrong because it is not a democracy.

“Why should whether China is a democracy or not be a point of discussion? It’s not their model of electoral system because Western democracy is not the only system there is in the world.

Africa should define its own democracy and not subscribe to China’s or the West. “The notion seek first the kingdom of democracy and the rest will follow is flawed. Let us not have contrived links. You can have economic growth without Western type of democracy. It is good but it’s not a necessary link.”

However, he warned China not to be defensive when Africans complain. For example complaints China’s cheap low quality imports are killing local African industry should be attended to.